Hasselblad 500 C/M.
A well-placed tent.
Historias de Cronopios y de Famas, by Julio Cortazar.
Gonzaga Manso is a director and photographer mainly focused on advertising and artistic work.
His work speaks about what he feels, what he dreams, what surrounds him. About that argument he had with a taxi driver, about the girl he met last summer, about getting lost and finding himself, about his dog and his little fixations. Telling stories and crafting characters is not only a passion, it is also a necessity.
Gonzaga Manso believes in hard work, planning and attention to detail. We break our backs building sets and shaping light to get THAT atmosphere, THAT colour. We have so much fun doing it.
He’s had the pleasure to work with clients like Pepsi, Movistar, Sony and Smart, and with agencies like DDB, McCann-Erickson, Contrapunto BBDO and TBWA. Some of these works have been awarded at important international festivals, others haven’t. As a director of photography, he has worked with such prestigious Spanish directors as Javier Fesser, Borja Cobeaga and Julio Medem.
Gonzaga also gives courses and lectures on light and photography. He’s given conferences in Lima, Buenos Aires, Venecia, Madrid, Panamá, Bogotá, Santiago de Chile…
Being able to turn your passion into your profession is a great privilege. He’s thankful to all his teammates and people who make it happen every day.
-How did you first become interested in photography?
I was a teenager completely in love, and I tried to capture that feeling using a camera. I failed.
-How would you describe your style of photography?
I would say I have a very cinematic approach. I love wide shots with several characters interacting. I feel really comfortable working in the studio, building sets and taking great care of the light and the atmosphere. But overall, for me it is essential to tell a story with the image, to capture an idea or a feeling.
-Is there a theme or concept that runs throughout all of your work?
I don’t think so. Ideas evolve and change over time, each project is different.
-What is your typical camera setup on a shoot?
It depends on the project. I shoot a lot with a Canon 5D SR, but I love medium format, Hasselblad or Phase One. From time to time, I shoot on film with my 500 C/M.
-You also work with moving image. How does working with this medium differ from your photography?
For me it is almost the same process. When I’m shooting a picture, I prepare everything exactly as if I were going to shoot a film. I do not rely on post-production to correct things later, I like to have everything happening in front of my lens.
Being honest, I think shooting films is way more demanding than shooting pictures. But also sometimes it is complicated to condense a story in just one frame. Both mediums have their charms and difficulties.
-What is your approach to pre-production like?
I’m a big pre-production fan. I love to control everything in my photographs, actually I’m a bit of a control freak. I think pre-production is a key step in the creation process. If you pre-produce well, then the shooting is going to be a piece of cake.
-You also teach and lecture about photography, how has this influenced your own way of shooing?
It made me analyse my workflow and be very conscious of who I am and what I do. Also, it’s a big motivation for me, it’s great to have people interested in my work.
-How do you promote your work?
Paco Ponce de León is a great producer, he manages all the promotion and contacts with clients and agencies. We also have agents getting projects for us.
-What is your post-production workflow like?
For me post-production is like the icing on the cake. If you did well during the creation process, in post-production all you just have to do is reinforce and empower the feeling of the image. But you can’t change the flavour of the whole cake.
I work on Capture One and Photoshop, and I usually spend a long time in this phase. Not because I do a lot of things, but because I want to take my time and be sure of the final look.
-What is your dream project?
Right now, direct a feature length film.
-What is your biggest resource in relation to technical knowledge and how long did it take you to master your technique?
Camera technique is really easy, you can learn how to properly use a camera in just one day. Lighting technique is far more complicated and more subtle. I consider light as the main tool of a photographer, and you’ll never stop learning about it.
I’m self-taught, I learnt how to use light by using it; Trial and error. I think that is the best way to understand how light works. Also, observation is a very important part of the learning process. We are surrounded by light every day of our lives, if we pay attention we can learn a lot about it. Films and paintings are also a big resource of knowledge.
-What was the best career advice you were ever given?
Don’t try to be someone else, be yourself and do what you like. Then, work your ass off.